Your dog licks your face and your cat sleeps in your bed. While you probably never gave it much thought, your pets can make you sick, according to a review from The Ohio State University.
Sceptical? Talk to the Colorado man who caught the plague—yes, the disease that’s infamous for wiping out millions of people during the Middle Ages—from his pit bull terrier, according to a Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report. (The human survived. His poor pup wasn’t so lucky.)
No one knows exactly how common it is for animals to infect people because it’s hard to track an illness to its source, says Jason Stull, Ph.D., author of the OSU study. But most pet owners don’t need to panic. Especially about the plague—the Colorado case is the first and only one ever reported.
“Overall, the risks are relatively small for the average person,” Stull says.
While rare, the researchers combed through more than 500 studies to find out what diseases you can most readily catch from your dog or cat. The following 5 are more common than rabies. Read on to see what they are.
Your unexplained upset stomach could be all Fido’s fault. A germ called Campylobacter jejuni causes diarrhoea, vomiting, and fever—and it can be spread via cat and dog poop.
“Bacteria and organisms in faeces can get on our hands and, through day-to-day living, can inadvertently get in our mouths,” says Stull.
Sure, you’re probably not smearing your hands in poop, but your dog might rub his butt on your couch, which you touch before eating a sandwich. So wash your hands often, says Stull—especially before you eat.
Cat Scratch Fever
If your cat sinks her claws into you, you could become infected with Bartonella, a bacterium that causes fever and swollen lymph nodes.
The germs live in flea poop, which can get on your cat’s claws when they scratch themselves. Make sure your cat is up to date on her flea meds, Stull says.
Ringworm is an infection caused by fungus (not worms) that manifests as small, round, itchy patches on your skin.
Cats are the most common culprits, but dogs can also carry ringworm. You can contract it if you touch an infected pet or an object he or she has come in contact with.
The best way to reduce your risk: Take your pet to the vet if he or she shows signs of ringworm like lesions on the face or paws or a spreading bald patch with a red ring around the outside, Stull says.
Related: Teach Your Dog To Fetch Beer
Microscopic parasites known as Cryptosporidium and Giardia duodenalis can live in your cat or dog’s faeces. The most common symptom if you become infected: diarrhoea.
Even though you clean the litter box with a scooper and use a bag to pick up your dog’s poop, it’s still possible to get a little on your hands. So be sure to wash them thoroughly after cleaning up after your pet, says Stull.
Sorry: Those slobbery mouth kisses from your pup do put you at risk.
The bacteria Pasteurella multocida can cause swollen lymph nodes, fever, and, in rare cases, meningitis. It lives in the mouths of cats and dogs and can infect you if your pet bites you or licks your nose, mouth, or eyes. If you want to cut your chances of getting sick, consider weaning Rex off the face smooches.